John McEnroe: In the Realm of Perfection
L'Empire de la perfection
Impact | Documentaries
In 1984, fiery tennis star John McEnroe accrued a winning percentage that has yet to be bested: a whopping 96.5%. Repurposing Gil de Kermadec’s 16mm documentation of that year’s French Open, Julien Faraut returns us to the tournament’s clay courts where McEnroe did battle with Ivan Lendl in the final. The enfant terrible is at his theatrical best here, and his unorthodox stylings are rendered brilliantly through the hypnotic archival footage. In contrast to classic TV reportage, de Kermadec’s parallax views sever McEnroe from his environment to closely examine his technique. Thus, to watch Faraut’s film is to bear witness to two high-wire acts of artistry: McEnroe’s, and that of the man who tried to crack his genius with moving images.
Narrated by Mathieu Amalric, In the Realm of Perfection is as much a lesson in cinematic form as it is in tennis form. And it comes damn close to achieving the titular feat that McEnroe never quite managed.
"What lingers, when this movie is done, are not the regular rallies, during which we survey the whole court, but those moments when we focus on McEnroe alone—on the dancing shuffle of his feet as he bobs and races for a return. Swap the sneakers for tap shoes and the dusty clay for a mirrored floor, and we could be watching Fred without Ginger, lost in the delirium of his art."—Anthony Lane, New Yorker